What the future holds, by Havas Media’s Naveen Chacko Mathews

Digital outdoor has grown by almost a third, recently, and technology continues to transform the industry, writes Havas’s head of business unit, Naveen Chacko Mathews.

The demand for outdoor advertising as part of the media mix has seen a level of stagnation, possibly even a regression, over the past few years in the region. Primarily due to shrinking budgets and the rise of digital as a seemingly cost-effective avenue for most brands to get a message across.

But that does not mean outdoor advertising is dying. Far from it. To start with, OOH still commands a lion’s share of attention and provides a canvas unlike any other media for marketers to play with. OOH campaigns can’t be ignored, if activated properly, compared with TV, radio, or mobile, which can be turned off, or digital, where the consumer can change channel.

But it is absolutely not a question of one channel against the other. Depending on the campaign, objective and budget, each has its own role to play within the media mix.

Online advertising, for example, has its limitations. The rise of adblockers has meant that digital

ad viewability isn’t always perfect, and then there is the question of transparency and ad fraud. Combine this with the sheer amount of information that consumers are faced with online, and it’s easy to understand why online advertising is not always the best solution.

With OOH advertising, this isn’t a problem. OOH ads are ubiquitous, and they can have a significant impact on consumers due to their size and contrast with the real-world environment.

But when these channels work in tandem to activate an idea, they generate amazing results. A Nielsen study in the UK found that consumers are 48 per cent more likely to interact with a digital ad after being exposed to an OOH ad.

OOH is a great place for creativity and experiences to thrive in the world of advertising, though brands haven’t fully focused on this aspect in the region. Couple this with the need

to provide a clear and lasting message, and it’s perfect for testing a brand’s most creative ideas

or just showcasing a product with some stunning visuals. Traditionally this came with a high cost of entry, but that’s changing.

While we have seen the digital outdoor formats grow by more than 30 per cent over the last few years, that has, in turn, helped cut the higher costs of production, longer lead times

and a commitment pre-requisite of months. There is still immense untapped potential in what digital technology enablement can bring to outdoor advertising, particularly tackling the problem of real-time delivery, measurement and optimisation akin to the online advertising space.

Agencies have made advances in the way they plan and evaluate outdoor inventory, but activation still largely follows a traditional method, reliant on the media vendors and site owners. Yes, several brands have leveraged data triggers such as the weather or time of day and enabled mobile interaction via beacons and QR codes to do some clever activations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the region, we still need to see digital outdoor leverage and reach its true potential. Real-time advertising is critical, but in reality it is part of a growing trend in which the industry is becoming more reactive. The large amount of data that marketers now have is fuelling this.

Beyond just showing an OOH ad on a screen and digitally delivering creative, DOOH is evolving to understand, in real-time, the demographics of people that are in the vicinity of an OOH ad so advertisers can deliver dynamic ads that best suit consumers at any given moment. In the same way that digital marketing has evolved to provide detailed insights and analytics into ad engagement and conversion, OOH advertising is now catching up. Campaign impressions will soon be measured, and attribution can further define its role in the marketing mix. The region still has to get to the stage where it is mainstream and where every DOOH is connected.

A considerable advancement in the DOOH space is the programmatic buying of OOH media. pDOOH is a more refined approach to digital out-of-home – you get all of the normal benefits of DOOH plus a little extra. It aims to automate the sale and delivery of OOH ad content in real-time.

Dentsu Aegis in their 2020 spend report predicted that this year was when we would see programmatic OOH go mainstream; that was before the world was hit with a curveball. Nevertheless, we are getting there.

Like the evolution of online programmatic buying, it will need to address the initial barriers of remnant inventory, ensuring media-owner buy-in and lower margins. It has the potential to pool inventory across suppliers and markets. Unlike online programmatic, though, pDOOH will be un-skippable and ad-block-proof and true to the initial roots of creating impact in an unmissable space. This also means that the measurement framework will change entirely for DOOH.

Another advance gaining traction in this space is the growth of AI and data that fuels further interaction, especially in spaces such as in-mall and high-pedestrian areas. The technology uses a combination of visual sensors and mobile beacons that can detect things like audiences, dwell times, engagement and more, overlaid by online user data that enables algorithms to then serve uniquely individualised messages. There are a few barriers, though, to this becoming mainstream, such as privacy concerns and GDPR rules. However, it opens avenues for marketers to truly express their creativity in a manner that is contextually relevant to an individual consumer.

OOH advertising is here to stay and will possibly see its biggest evolution yet, connecting to the wider advertising ecosystem and creating excitement like never before.